‘Gross’ sexual harassment of young girls costs employer $45,000

Cases

‘Gross’ sexual harassment of young girls costs employer $45,000

Three young women who were separately sexually harassed by their employer while working in a Queensland shop have been awarded $15,000 each in damages in the State Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

Three young women who were separately sexually harassed by their employer while working in a Queensland shop have been awarded $15,000 each in damages in the State Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

At the time of the assaults one of the girls was 15 and one 16. In each case the girls were paid only $5 an hour for the brief periods they worked in the store.

First victim

The girl who was 16 at the time said in an affidavit that on 4 November 2000 she commenced employment as a shop assistant at the Palm Valley Sub-News, but left the job the following week.

During the course of the first day her employer, Barry John Shearer, gave her 12 cartons of cigarettes and told her to put them onto a shelf that was behind the counter.

While she was undertaking this task, Shearer came up behind her and grabbed her firmly on the buttocks with one of his hands.

He showed her how to stack the cigarettes and then said 'Good girl' and patted her on the buttocks a couple of times.

In the afternoon only she and Shearer remained at the shop. She was having difficulty working the cash register. Shearer came up to her while she was at the register and told her not to worry. He then gave her a hug.

At about 4pm on the same day she was stacking shelves. Shearer took some magazines from the shelves and told her to follow him to the back of the shop. He sat down at his computer and asked her general questions about her goals in life. He then said words to the effect of:

‘A few years ago I was a photographer and photographed a lot of models and made lots of people famous. I have all the equipment at my place and would like to photograph you there ... You have a lot of potential and could make it really big. However, the only place where you can make good money is taking naked photos. It would be heaps of fun and we could play heaps of cool games. I’ll do everything in my power to help you as long as you do what I say.’

Shearer then opened three sealed pornographic magazines and showed her photographs of naked women with their legs spread apart. A further conversation about remuneration for such pornographic photographs ensued.

Later that evening, she walked to the back of the shop. Shearer was sitting at his desk. He asked her whether she had any stretch marks on her body. After a non-committal response, he suggested she take her clothes off so he could have a look. She refused. She tried to leave at that time, however she couldn’t open the sliding door. Shearer told her he’d let her out as long as she gave him a hug. At first she refused but subsequently agreed so that she could leave.

Further incidents

The following day she spoke to a fellow worker about the conduct of Shearer. The fellow worker confirmed that he had also engaged in similar conduct with her.

Further incidents occurred, including Shearer asking her if he could watch when she went to the toilet, and putting his hand on her breast.

On one occasion Shearer said he would come around to her place and collect her to take her to his house for a full body massage so that he could take some pictures of her. She refused.

Impact on victim

After she left the employment she was unable to obtain alternative employment.

She said she felt very humiliated and embarrassed. She stated that she felt disgusted with herself. She said she has found it difficult to trust partners since this time, which has affected her relationships with other men.

Shearer subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful and indecently dealing with the girl, a child under 16 years. He was sentenced in relation to this and 16 other similar counts to imprisonment for a period of 18 months, the sentence being suspended after nine months.

Second victim

In the second case the girl was 20.

On the second day after she started work she went to the back room to put her bag down. Shearer’s wife was working at the till. Only she and Shearer were in the back room.

Shearer approached her. He gave her a hug and pulled her against him. He then tried to kiss her on the lips and she turned her head to the side. He then kissed her on the cheek. She was shocked by the incident and did not make any comment. She walked away and commenced her work duties.

During the course of her employment and on numerous occasions, Shearer touched her by placing his arms around her waist. He would pat her on the buttocks. This made her feel uncomfortable. She did not say anything to him about these incidents. She would simply make herself busy and move away from him when this occurred.

On another occasion, when only she and Shearer were present, Shearer said words to the effect of 'I think your boobs would be tear drop shape and you would have perky nipples'. She responded 'No' and walked away. Similarly, on another occasion he made comments to the effect that her nipples were hard when she walked out of the milk fridge.

In addition, during the course of her employment, Shearer would show her photographs in pornographic magazines and tell her that he could photograph her in a similar way.

On another occasion, after working a shift, she walked into the back room. Shearer was sitting on a chair. He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her down so she was sitting across his knees. She was embarrassed by this incident and stood up and walked away.

As a consequence of these incidents, she resigned from her employment on 14 November 2000.

Third victim

In the case of the 15 year old, she was also employed in November 2000. Shearer told her she would be paid $5 an hour.

During the course of the second day, she went to the back of the shop and Shearer pulled her onto his lap. He then placed his hand around her waist and rubbed his hands on her stomach.

She told the Commission she felt uncomfortable and wanted to walk out of the shop however she needed the money as she was not living at home, so she stayed working.

A few days after commencing work at the shop, she was again in the back room performing work. Shearer said words to the effect that he would like to take her and another girl to a waterfall and take some photographs. He said he could give them both a full body oil massage. She did not say anything and just left to return to the front of the shop.

At about the same time, Shearer said that she and another girl should come with him on a boat and 'swap partners and stuff'. She did not say anything as she was concerned she would lose her job.

When she subsequently complained about not getting enough hours Shearer said that a fellow employee ‘was doing more for him than she was ‘and he would look after whoever did the most for him.

A conversation ensued during which it became clear to her that Shearer would give more work to the other employee who was prepared to have sexual contact with him.

On another occasion, she was wearing a see-through top with a bra underneath. While she was working at the back of the shop, Shearer said to her that she shouldn’t wear a bra and should show her natural shape. While he was speaking to her, he touched her breasts for about 30 seconds.

She said that it was like he was 'trying to reshape my boobs by moving them in different directions'. She felt very uncomfortable while he was doing this and stood there because she did not know what to do.

Soon after, Shearer commenced to show her photographs of naked women in pornographic magazines. He told her that he had taken some of these photographs and could take photographs of her when she was still young. He had copies of loose pages under his computer monitor that included photographs of girls of about 15-16 years of age who were naked.

She left her employment on or about 12 November 2000.

Commission findings

The Commission found that each of the cases was clearly sexual harassment. The case involving the 15 year old was ‘grossly offensive and improper’ and that involving the 14 year old was ‘disgraceful and demeaning’ and the girl had felt humiliated by his actions.

In each of the cases general damages of $15,000 were awarded, with differing amounts for economic loss. The Commission declined to award exemplary damages in any of the cases.

Dale, Larkin and Loffler v Shearer and another [2006] QADT 1 (16 January 2006)
 
Related

20 years on and sexual harassment remains a problem in Australian workplaces

Sexual harassment: men still don’t get it
  

 

Post details